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Dr. Evan Gora

Quantitative Ecologist | PhD, University of Louisville

forest ecology, lightning, plant death, decomposition

External site:

Other affiliations: Earl S. Tupper Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Ancón, Republic of Panamá

Evan Gora is a forest ecologist investigating the causes and consequences of plant death. Plants play crucial roles in global biodiversity and nutrient cycling. However, plant mortality rates are shifting with climate change and putting these key functions at risk. Evan’s work aims to understand when, where, and why plants die in nature, and then measure the implications of their deaths for forest ecosystems. His research helps us understand the current stressors affecting forests and begin to predict how forests will change in the future.  

Evan takes a bottom-up approach to understand how plant death influences ecosystem processes. He studies local patterns and processes of plant death, and then uses “big data” such as plot networks and satellite sensors to scale these findings to the landscape and beyond. Much of this research focuses on the effects of a rarely studied phenomenon – lightning – and the drivers of mortality for the largest and oldest trees in forest ecosystems. This research is key to understanding how agents of mortality are reshaping the composition of our forests and their capacity to store carbon.

After plants die, they decompose with major implications for the global carbon budget. Evan explores how environmental conditions, biogeochemistry, and decomposer community assembly influence decomposition. This work has also expanded into research describing the vertical dimension of microbial diversity and function that extends from the forest floor to the canopy.  Studies of decomposition are essential to understanding forest nutrient cycling and its response to global change.

Gora, Evan M., and Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert. 2021. “Implications Of Size-Dependent Tree Mortality For Tropical Forest Carbon Dynamics”. Nature Plants 7: 384–391. doi:10.1038/s41477-021-00879-0.
Yanoviak, Stephen P., Evan M. Gora, Phillip M. Bitzer, Jeffrey C. Burchfield, H C Muller-Landau, M. Detto, S Paton, and S P Hubbell. 2020. “Lightning Is A Major Cause Of Large Tropical Tree Mortality In A Lowland Neotropical Forest”. New Phytologist 225: 1936-1944. doi:10.1111/nph.16260.
Parlato, BP, Evan M. Gora, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2020. “Lightning Damage Facilitates Beetle Colonization Of Tropical Trees”. Annals Of The Entomological Society Of America 113: 447–451. doi:10.1093/aesa/saaa015.
Gora, Evan M., and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2020. “Lightning-Caused Disturbance In The Peruvian Amazon”. Biotropica 52: 813-817. doi:10.1111/btp.12826.
Gora, Evan M., Helene Muller-Landau, Jeffrey C. Burchfield, Phillip M. Bitzer, S P Hubbell, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2020. “A Mechanistic And Empirically-Supported Lightning Risk Model For Forest Trees”. Journal Of Ecology 108: 1956– 1966.
Gora, Evan M., Jeffrey C. Burchfield, Helene C. Muller-Landau, Phillip M. Bitzer, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2020. “Pantropical Geography Of Lightning-Caused Disturbance And Its Implications For Tropical Forests”. Global Change Biology 26: 5017– 5026. doi:10.1111/gcb.15227.
Gora, Evan M., Riley C Kneale, Markku Larjavaara, and H C Muller-Landau. 2019. “Dead Wood Necromass In A Moist Tropical Forest: Stocks, Fluxes, And Spatiotemporal Variability”. Ecosystems 22: 1189-1205.
Lucas, Jane M., Evan M. Gora, Annika Salzberg, and Michael Kaspari. 2019. “Antibiotics As Chemical Warfare Across Multiple Taxonomic Domains And Trophic Levels In Brown Food Webs”. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286: 20191536. doi:doi:10.1098/rspb.2019.1536.
Gora, Evan M., Jane M. Lucas, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2019. “Microbial Composition And Wood Decomposition Rates Vary With Microclimate From The Ground To The Canopy In A Tropical Forest”. Ecosystems 22: 1206-1219.
Gora, Evan M., and Jane M. Lucas. 2019. “Dispersal And Nutrient Limitations Of Decomposition Above The Forest Floor: Evidence From Experimental Manipulations Of Epiphytes And Macronutrients”. Functional Ecology 33. Wiley Online Library: 2417-2429. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.13440.
Adams, Benjamin J., Evan M. Gora, Michiel van Breugel, Sergio Estrada-Villegas, Stefan A. Schnitzer, Jefferson S. Hall, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2019. “Do Lianas Shape Ant Communities In An Early Successional Tropical Forest?”. Biotropica 51: 885-893. doi:10.1111/btp.12709.
Gripshover, Noah D., Stephen P. Yanoviak, and Evan M. Gora. 2018. “A Functional Comparison Of Swimming Behavior In Two Temperate Forest Ants (Camponotus Pennsylvanicus And Formica Subsericea) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)”. Annals Of The Entomological Society Of America 111: 319-325. doi:10.1093/aesa/say026.
Gora, Evan M., Emma J. Sayer, Benjamin L. Turner, and Edmund V. J. Tanner. 2018. “Decomposition Of Coarse Woody Debris In A Long‐Term Litter Manipulation Experiment: A Focus On Nutrient Availability”. Functional Ecology 32. Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111): 1128-1138. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.13047.
Yanoviak, Stephen P., Evan M. Gora, Jeffrey M. Burchfield, Phillip M. Bitzer, and Matteo Detto. 2017. “Quantification And Identification Of Lightning Damage In Tropical Forests”. Ecology And Evolution 7. Wiley-Blackwell: 5111-5122. doi:10.1002/ece3.3095.
Lucas, Jane M., Evan M. Gora, and Alfonso Alonso. 2017. “A View Of The Global Conservation Job Market And How To Succeed In It”. Conservation Biology 31: 1223-1231. doi:10.1111/cobi.12949.
Gora, Evan M., Phillip M. Bitzer, Jeffrey C. Burchfield, Stefan A. Schnitzer, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2017. “Effects Of Lightning On Trees: A Predictive Model Based On In Situ Electrical Resistivity”. Ecology And Evolution 7. Wiley-Blackwell: 8523-8534. doi:10.1002/ece3.3347.
Gora, Evan M., Noah Gripshover, and Stephen P. Yanoviak. 2016. “Orientation At The Water Surface By The Carpenter Ant Camponotus Pennsylvanicus (De Geer, 1773) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)”. Myrmecological News 23. Österreichische Gesellschaft für Entomofaunistik: 33-39.
Yanoviak, Stephen P, Evan M. Gora, Jennifer Fredley, Phillip M Bitzer, Rose-Marie Muzika, and Walter P Carson. 2015. “Direct Effects Of Lightning In Temperate Forests: A Review And Preliminary Survey In A Hemlock–Hardwood Forest Of The Northern United States”. Canadian Journal Of Forest Research 45: 1258-1268. doi:10.1139/cjfr-2015-0081.
Gora, Evan M., and Stephen P Yanoviak. 2015. “Electrical Properties Of Temperate Forest Trees: A Review And Quantitative Comparison With Vines”. Canadian Journal Of Forest Research 45: 236-245. doi:10.1139/cjfr-2014-0380.
Gora, Evan M., Loretta L Battaglia, Henry B Schumacher, and Walter P Carson. 2014. “Patterns Of Coarse Woody Debris Volume Among 18 Late-Successional And Mature Forest Stands In Pennsylvania1”. The Journal Of The Torrey Botanical Society 141: 151-160.